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Nanna Ditzel

Nanna Ditzel (1923-2005) was dubbed the "First Lady of Danish Furniture Design" by the Scandinavian Furniture Fair, a title bestowed upon her for her long career in furniture, textile and jewelry design. She was born in Copenhagen and started learning cabinetmaking at the Richards School, later attending the School of Arts and Crafts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1946. In Copenhagen, the Cabinetmaker's Guild held annual exhibits, from 1927-1968 that showcased the collaborative work of designers and cabinetmakers and cemented their professional cooperation. Ditzel began showing her work at these exhibits while she was still a student. She also met her first husband, Jørgen Ditzel, at school in 1943 and they began working and exhibiting together in 1944. She was trained in cabinetmaking, he in upholstery and they shared a design aesthetic built on creating comfortable, livable and unassuming environments.

The Ditzels spent the first part of their career, as did many post war designers in Denmark, trying to produce furniture that would expand, separate or serve a dual purpose in order to appropriately furnish a small apartment. Two such innovations from them were a tea table with a top that lifted off to become a tray and a 1951 bed that tapered towards the foot to take up less space. In 1949 Ditzel designed the functional, but more decorative, curved "Two Seat Sofa" and a 1951 chaise lounge for Knud Willadsen. The Ditzel's cozy 1959 "Basket" chair, designed to be suspended from the ceiling, is the most famous example of their experiments working with wicker. They also designed a set of enamel kitchen utensils for the Ravnholm factory in the 1950s, and Nanna designed a series of jewelry that won a prize from the Goldsmith's Association in 1950. She would later collaborate with Georg Jensen on more jewelry designs.

In 1952 they exhibited a series of children's furniture in which leather flaps and laces were used in all the places that would have required screws and hinges. The Ditzels had several children and a unique sensitivity towards designing for their smaller scale. They believed that functional design could benefit all ages and implemented features such as beds that become sofas during the day so that children could get more mileage out of their personal space. In 1962, a year after Jørgen's untimely death, Ditzel came out with the successful "Toadstool," which was a multi-purpose, stacking stool or table for children.

During the 1960s Ditzel contributed to the journal Mobilia organized by Gunnar Bratvold. She also created a large collection of textiles for Unika-Vœv, which later became the Halling-Koch Design Center. In 1966 they commissioned her to decorate their showroom with her trademark split-level floor seating and low cushions. In 1968 she married Kurt Heide and relocated to London where she said that "many things were done otherwise than in our own matter-of-fact country." Nevertheless, she and Heide were busy creating a showroom and meeting place for international design called Interspace, where she had her own studio and company, Nanna Ditzel Productions, Ltd. to sell her jewelry, textiles and furniture. In more recent years, with a workshop back in Denmark, Ditzel's mark on the horizon has been the light, fan-like and incredibly successful "Trinidad" chair, the airport seating "Tema" and the cast iron "City Bench" all manufactured by Fredericia Stolefabrik.

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